Eating well with Canada's Food Guide

Canada has a new Food Guide!

Canada’s Food Guide is an eating plan to help children, teens and adults make healthy food choices. “Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide” was created by Health Canada and replaces the 1992 version called “Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating”.

Who can use Canada’s Food Guide?

The Food Guide can be used by: 

  • Children ages two and older
  • Teens
  • Adults and
  • Older adults over the age of 50

Eating the recommended number of servings from the four food groups will help you get the nutrients needed for good health. It may also help you lower your risk of certain chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Each food group is high in certain nutrients, but no single food or food group can give you all the nutrients you need. This means it is important to eat a variety of food from each food group every day.  

How many Food Guide Servings do I need per day? 

Use the chart below to find out.

Children Teens Adults
Age 2-3 4-8 9-13 14-18 19-50 51+
Sex Girls and boys Females Males Females Males Females Males
Vegetables and Fruit 4 5 6 7 8 7-8 8-10 7 7
Grain Products 3 4 6 6 7 6-7 8 6 7
Milk and Alternatives 2 2 3-4 3-4 3-4 2 2 3 3
Meat and Alternatives 1 1 1-2 2 3 2 3 2 3

What is a Food Guide Serving?

A Food Guide Serving is a reference amount of food. It is used to show the number of choices you need each day from each food group. The Food Guide shows examples of what equals ONE Food Guide Serving from each of the four food groups.

The following are examples of one Food Guide Serving:

  • One slice of bread (35g)
  • ½ cup (125mL) of vegetables or fruit
  • 1 cup (250mL) of milk or fortified soy beverage
  • 75g of meat, poultry or fish

How many Food Guide Servings do you need?

That depends on your age and sex. The recommended number of Food Guide Servings is an average amount that you should try to eat each day. You will find the recommended number of Food Guide servings for you in the chart shown in Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide.

Tips on using the Food Guide

Choosing foods from each of the four food groups helps you get the nutrients you need. Avoiding an entire food group may cause you to miss some key nutrients. Follow these tips to make each Food Guide Serving count.

Vegetables and Fruit

  • Eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day. Choose dark green vegetables such as broccoli, romaine lettuce and spinach. Select orange vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash.
  • Choose vegetables and fruit prepared with little or no added fat, sugar or salt. Enjoy vegetables steamed, baked or stir-fried instead of deep fried.
  • Have vegetables and fruit more often than juice.

Grain Products

  • Make at least half of your grain products whole grain each day. Eat a variety of whole grains such as barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa and wild rice. Enjoy whole grain breads, oatmeal or whole wheat pasta.
  • Choose grain products that are lower in fat, sugar or salt. Compare the Nutrition Facts table on labels to make wise choices. Enjoy the true taste of grain products. When adding sauces or spreads, use small amounts.

Milk and Alternatives

  • Drink skim, 1% or 2% milk each day. Have 500 mL (2 cups) of milk every day for adequate vitamin D. Drink fortified soy beverages if you do not drink milk.
  • Select lower fat milk alternatives. Compare the Nutrition Facts table on yogurts or cheeses to make lower fat choices.

Meat and Alternatives

  • Have meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu often.
  • Eat at least two Food Guide Servings of fish each week including char, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines and trout.
  • Select lean meat and alternatives prepared with little or no added fat or salt. Trim the visible fat from meats. Remove the skin on poultry. Use cooking methods such as roasting, baking or poaching that require little or no added fat. If you eat luncheon meats, sausages or pre-packaged meats, choose those lower in salt (sodium) and fat.

More Tips from the Food Guide

Oils and fats

  • Include 30 to 40mL (2 to 3 tablespoons) of unsaturated fat each day. This includes what you use in food preparation and add to your foods. Canola, olive and soybean oils are unsaturated fats.

Foods and beverages high in calories, fat, sugar or salt (sodium)

  • Limit foods including cakes and pastries, chocolate and candies, cookies and granola bars, doughnuts and muffins, ice cream and frozen desserts, French fries, potato chips, nachos and other salty snacks, alcohol, fruit flavoured drinks, soft drinks, sports and energy drinks, and sweetened hot or cold drinks.

Physical activity

  • Be active everyday. Daily activity added to healthy eating is a step towards better health and a healthy body weight.
  • Canada’s Physical Activity Guide recommends at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day for children and youth and 2.5 hours a week for adults and older adults. The Activity Guide also suggests adding activities that target your muscles and bones at least three times a week for children and youth and two times a week for adults and older adults.
  • You don’t have to do it all at one time, 10 minutes of being active adds up throughout the day to meet these recommendations.

Bottom Line

The Food Guide is a tool you can use to get the nutrients you need for good health. Making healthy food choices, watching portion sizes and getting regular physical activity are all ways to help you maintain a healthy body weight and prevent chronic diseases.

Learn about how many Food Guide Servings you need by watching the EatRight Ontario video series on healthy eating.

Last Update – October 9, 2016

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If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.